January friends, the days are full of gray light. Chez Madame Fromage, I have been writing from dawn to dusk on a new project, finding solace in Provolone. Today, as I cut myself a slice and fished some Castelvetrano olives out of a jar, I fell into a little reverie. This Provolone was cracked open back in October. It was the centerpiece for the giant cheese board at the Cheese Ball! What a happy memory.
After the party, this giant Provolone — called a Mandorino due to its bulbous shape (think: Madarin orange) — was divided. And gifted. Three months have passed, and I am still gnawing. Surely, this gives you an idea of just how sturdy and enduring Provolone can be. It’s become a family pet. Did anyone let the Provolone out the fridge today?
If you are looking for a house-cat cheese — one you can keep for the next month and reach to for comfort — lean on this sturdy Italian. There are a thousand ways to enjoy sharp Provolone. I’ll tell you my fave five:
Aged Provolone, Red Wine, and Olives
So many people love to pair red wine with cheese, but it’s not easy. Bold reds often run rampant over subtle flavors in cheese. Aged (Piccante) Provolone has a sharp hook on the finish, making it a good pal for red wine, charcuterie, and olives. This week, I’ve enjoyed it with an Argentinian Malbec.
Provolone & Pepperoni Pizza
My neighbor Larry makes pizza every Friday, and about once a month I bring him a cheese from my stash. We’ve loaded his pies with everything from fresh burrata to herbed goat cheeses to funky slabs of Taleggio. One of my favorite combinations yet: this past weekend grated aged Prove over a red pie studded with spicy pepperoni and sweet onion. Divine. Try a mix of aged Prov, mozzarella, and a little Parm.
Ham, Provolone, and Pickle Melts
Since Prov melts so well, it’s terrific under the broiler on a sandwich. I like to load it onto sliced ham (or better yet, speck), some bread & butter pickles, and a swoosh of grainy mustard. It’s also terrific with smoked turkey and and onion jam.
Au Gratin Potatoes with Provolone
Provolone likes onions and herbs. It’s not a blank canvas, but it melds well with strong flavors, and curls up nicely against starches. I’ve got Honest Cooking’s recipe for Simple Herbed Potatoes Au Gratin with Provolone Cheese flagged for later this week.
Provolone, Grapes, and Smoked Almonds
Finally, for an easy desk snack at work: Cube that Provolone and toss it into a container with some green or red grapes, then pack in some smoked almonds. This combination of sweet, salty, and smoky travels with me everywhere — on airplanes, on trains, and most recently to the movie theater. Gool ol’ Prov even pairs well with popcorn, and it’s not bad with Milk Duds either.
How to Purchase Provolone: Go to a cheese shop and ask to sample it. If you live near an Italian specialty foods store, look for Provolone on a rope hanging from the ceiling. (In Philadelphia, you’ll find these at Di Bruno Bros. in the Italian Market.) Be sure to ask for Piccante Provolone, which has the most flavor. Store your Provolone in cheese paper (or wrap it in waxed paper, then tinfoil) so it can breathe but won’t dry out.
Interesting Fact: Provolone is essentially aged mozzarella. It’s a “stretched” cheese that is hung to dry and develop flavor. That’s why you’ll notices that the paste of this cheese pulls apart in thread-like clusters.
For the New Year, I resolved to eat more good butter. Cultured butter! Have you ever tried it? It’s made from cream that has been fermented, similar to the way that yogurt is fermented. The process, which is as simple as pouring a little buttermilk into a pot of cream and letting it cure overnight, encourages flavors to develop in the milk. It’s rich, it smells buttermilky, it’s…the Champagne of butters.
You can make it yourself, as one of my students did this year (yielding beautiful results), or you can pick up cultured butter at the store — Vermont Creamery makes an exquisite French-style cultured butter. It’s easy to spot at places like Whole Foods because it’s sold in a little basket with a blue-and-white checkered paper cover. If you’ve never tasted cultured butter before, you will faint at its luxness. Vermont Creamery uses cream with higher butterfat (86%) — in line with traditional French butter — plus a pinch of sea salt. I once won a prize once for a batch cultured-butter brownies.
For this breakfast bowl, I used a local cultured butter from Valley Milkhouse. Divine.
I started with my new fave 8-Grain Hot Cereal from Bob’s Red Mill (not a plug, I am just a fan). It’s gluten-free and has a fine consistency I love, similar to cream of wheat. In addition to oats, it contains brown rice, millet, sorghum, and flaxseed. Very virtuous.
As a topper, I like to add all kinds of things, but today’s combination was particularly purr-worthy. The key is cultured butter. And I had a jar of Marisa McClellan’s Apple Cinnamon Caramel in the fridge from our recent joint post. Try her recipe, or substitute with apple butter or maple syrup.
Why bee pollen? I gave up morning coffee. Have to get my perk somehow!
Breakfast Bowl with Cultured Butter, Bee Pollen, and Apple
This recipe makes one serving but is easily doubled. It also reheats well. You can find bee pollen at farmers’ markets and health food stores.
- 1/4 cup 8 Grain Hot Cereal (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Pinch of salt
- 1 small apple, peeled and diced
- 1 teaspoon cultured butter
- Apple Butter or Foodinjars Apple Cinnamon Caramel
- Toasted walnuts
- 1 teaspoon bee pollen
In a saucepan, combine hot cereal ingredients over medium heat. Bring this goodness to a simmer, then drop on the lid, turn the flame to low, and let it cook about 10 minutes. Check it a few times to make sure it’s not burning on.
Pour it into a bowl (remove the cinnamon stick), add toppings, and gaze lovingly at the butter while it melts.
NEWS! I have a new sibling blog, With The Darlingtons, where I am sharing recipes from my new book, Movie Night Menus. Please consider checking out our new site and subscribing to our monthly newsletter.
Meet Bucheron. He’s a handsome devil, isn’t he? A snowy log of goat cheese in a velveteen jacket. When he arrived on my stoop recently from Wisconsin, I invited him in to meet my good friend Marisa McClellan, cookbook author and blogger about all things canning at Foodinjars.
Marisa and I were having a toast. We invited Bucheron to join.
Allow me to present our pairing party: a collaborative cheese board that Marisa and I created with her spectacular preserves and caramel corn, along with a dreamy dairy cocktail from my book, The New Cocktail Hour.
We hope this this inspires you to host your own pairing party for New Year’s. Below, you’ll find our menu, along with a cocktail recipe for Guinness Punch, plus links to Marisa’s recipes.
A New Year’s Cheese Pairing Party
By Marisa McClellan + Madame Fromage
- 1 log Bucheron (or other high-quality goat cheese)
- Apple Cinnamon Caramel
- Cranberry Caramel
- Oven Toasted Caramel Corn
- Guinness Punch (see below)
- Pomegranate, Lady apples, rosemary sprigs
Why These Pairings Work: High quality goat cheese should be grassy and bright, with a delicate tang — “yogurt-y” some people say. To create a pairing with it, swing toward tart preserves. That’s why cranberry matches so well, so do apples, and pomegranates. Marisa’s Apple Caramel is a splendid pairing — it’s the best apple preserve recipe I’ve ever tasted; imagine a pureed candied apple. Add a bowl of sweet-salty Honeyed Popcorn and a glass of Guinness Punch (which has a malty, chicory-like bass note), and you get an incredible flavor circle.
This recipe serves 4. You can also find it in The New Cocktail Hour, written by yours truly + André Darlington. (Pssst…we have a new sibling blog called With The Darlingtons.)
- 12 ounces (335 ml) Guinness or other stout
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (to taste)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup ice
- Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish
- Cinnamon, for garnish
Instructions: In a blender, combine stout, milk, condensed milk, and vanilla with ice. Pulse for 10 to 15 seconds. Serve in chilled rocks glass, and top with nutmeg and cinnamon.
Full Disclosure: Bucheron was mailed to me as a sample. This is not a sponsored post.
Drumroll please! Friends, my brother André and I are on the verge releasing our second book and starting a new cocktail column in Organic Life Magazine. I know, I know — you must be wondering: what about le fromage?! Don’t worry, Madame Fromage has been around for almost 8 years, and it’s not going anywhere. But, André and I have created a new enterprise: With The Darlingtons.
The tagline for our new site is “Muddling Cocktails and Culture.”
We’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months defining our vision for the future, one that encompasses both our passions. We hope you’ll sign up for our monthly newsletter and check out the blog we’ve created, along with a list of services. You can also hear us talk about it tomorrow at noon (EST) on Facebook Live via my MF Facebook page.
Win A Copy Of Our Book!
The latest and greatest news about our projects will be posted on With The Darlingtons, as will cocktail and food recipes, music and movie recommendations, giveaways and more! In fact, we’re kicking off the party right now! The first 300 IG followers of @WithTheDarlingtons will be in the running for a hot-off-the-press copy of “Movie Night Menus,” along with a “movie party” box we’ve curated.
Follow With The Darlingtons
Note: TCM’s Movie Night Menus drops from Running Press on Dec. 27, 2017 — in time for New Year’s Eve parties and The Oscars. You can pre-order copies now online and at stores where books are sold.
Angels are running the Whole Foods dairy counter this year. And they’re spreading some dairy love across the nation. From December 13 – 24, every Whole Foods Market will offer a special half-price artisan cheese each day for the TWELVE DAYS OF CHEESE. Yes, that means you could feasibly pick up a different hunk every day and create a verrry merry pairing. (Read: eat cheese, skip dinner.)
Last week, the angels invited me to pop by the new Whole Foods Center City near my house in Philadelphia to preview the stash for the 12 Days of Cheese calendar. When angels call, who can ignore the dulcet tones? So, I went on your behalf. Lovers, here’s your dairy forecast:
Here’s what I love about sharing one cheese per evening, instead of digging into a whole board: you get to savor. Enjoying just one cheese is such a great way to teach yourself about flavor. Plus, you can play pairing games.
Whaaat? You’ve never played pairing games?
Serve one cheese, like Epoisses, and try pairing it with three different libations. For example, you could invite a trio of friends over for “Epoisses Night” and ask the first to bring a wine, the second to bring a beer, and the third to bring a spirit or non-alcoholic beverage.
Hint: Epoisses likes White Burgundy, monastic beers, and it’s washed in Marc de Bourgogne. There, you’ve got at least three easy options. They’ll probably all be fantastic, but you could add a wild card — like your favorite mulled wine or hot cider recipe?
Serve one cheese, like Borough Market Stilton, and play “empty the pantry.” Crack into some of those preserves that have been hiding in the back of your cabinets — jams, pickles, curds, etc. — and find out which pantry item pairs best. Or, you can invite your friends to bring one or two items from their pantries while you provide a hunk of this glorious blue and, say, a bottle of Port or some dark beer. Hint: I love a chocolate stout with a salty blue cheese.
Tasting a pairing that works (like chutney and blue cheese) is wonderful, of course, but you can also teach yourself a lot by tasting “off” pairings. For example, I’m guessing that dilly beans would taste pretty dreadful alongside blue cheese, but you never know. If you discover a favorite new pairing during the Whole Foods 12 Days of Cheese, will you let me know?
Full Disclosure: Occasionally, I run sponsored posts to feed my wicked cheese habit. This post was sponsored by Whole Foods Market.